|Foto di primavera-estate 1944 a Bandera di Vernasca |
sulla costa di Vigoleno versante torrente Ongina .
An uplifting story of dogged research into wartime hospitality in Italy has come to the Trust’s notice. Ambrogio Ponzi has an evocative photo of himself, as a small boy, sitting on the lap of Joseph Cahalane, an Irish sailor who had escaped from Fontanellato and was being sheltered by Ambrogio’s mother Albertina Vajenti and her five sisters. The family lived at Fidenza, in Parma province, but because of the Allied bombardment was taking refuge in the hills. The photo, taken in 1944, shows the group in relaxed mood in the countryside but, especially as one of the party is holding stolen German binoculars, it would have been sufficient to have had them all shot.
Joseph had been on board the submarine Oswald when it was rammed off Capo Spartivento in 1940 by an Italian warship and the crew was forced to abandon ship. Three men died and the rest were captured.
Joseph and the three other PoWs being sheltered by the family – one of whom wrote a diary that was recently published – parted from the family in 1944 and headed for the Allied lines.
The German retreat and partisan activity were making the area highly dangerous. Joseph returned to Ireland after the war and died in 1972, aged 58.
Ambrogio set about tracing the Cahalane family, knowing only Joseph’s first name. He eventually contacted Joseph’s son, Barry. Recently, Barry, his wife Linda and sisters Dana and Dympna were Ambrogio’s guests in Fidenza. Barry says: “Our primary purpose was to express personally the gratitude we feel towards Ambrogio’s mother and his aunts for the incredible courage, kindness and selflessness they exhibited on behalf of our father.”